How do I find a serial number on an old wooden canoe or boat?

Discussion in 'Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)' started by Benson Gray, Oct 2, 2005.

  1. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    Most old wooden canoes have a serial number on both inside stems and a decal or tag with the manufacturer's logo on the bow deck. The number is usually stamped on the top of the lower part of the stems. The inside stems are the long curved pieces of wood that form the ends of the canoe. You want to look on the part that extends out from under the decks on the bottom of the floor inside the hull. These numbers are occasionally in boats on the edge of the center transom brace or on the edge of the transom itself.

    This is highlighted by the blue boxes in the attached images below. They may be so encrusted with dirt, old varnish, and other junk that the numbers are not easy to read. You might need to use a flashlight at a low angle, some gentle scraping, or even paper and a crayon to do a rubbing like they do on old grave stones. Another option is to dust the area with chalk or some other light powder and then lightly rub off the excess. Sanding is not a good idea since it is very easy to inadvertently remove the numbers completely.

    The most common format is a four to six digit serial number followed by a space and a two digit number which is the length of the canoe in feet. It is stamped in both ends so check the other end if a few digits are not clear. You can post this number in a message at to have a volunteer reply with a copy of the original build record.


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    Last edited: Aug 1, 2017

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